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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  January 18, 2015 11:15am-12:21pm EST

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the first project funded by the federal government for road production was a national road that extended for maryland to wheeling, for genia. when it comes to wheeling, that will give this community, which is about 50 years old, the real spurt that it needs for growth. over the next 25 years the population of wheeling, virginia will almost triple. >> watch all of our events from wheeling today on c-span3. >> catherine clinton talks about what she calls parlor politics in washington dc during the civil war. women carried out their own social battles through gossip
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spending wars, and hosting parties. according to mrs. clinton mary lincoln drew criticism for attempting to keep up appearances through lavish diplomatic dinners despite the ongoing civil war. this hour-long event was part of the lincoln forum symposium in gettys gettysburg, pennsylvania. >> it's my pleasure to introduce your second speaker this morning, dr. catherine clinton. dr. clinton earned her bachelor's degree at harvard and ph.d. at princeton where she studied under dr. james mcpherson. she taught at the citadel, wesleyan wesleyan, brandeis, and queens university in belfast northern ireland. since august of 2014, she's been the denman endowed professor at -- in american history at the university of texas at san antonio. so from northern ireland to texas, that's quite a journey. and 2016 she'll assume the presidency of the southern historical association. her prestigious post recognizing her standing in the field.
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she's the author or editor of two dozen books, many focusing on family, gender, or women's issues in the 19th century. i suspect many people in this room have read her 2009 biography of mary todd lincoln. her talk today is titled "teeming with rivals: women's parlor politics during the civil war." please help me welcome dr. clinton. [ applause ] >> well, thank you. it's so lovely to be here in gettysburg, and, yes, indeed the journey from northern ireland to texas, what would draw me into these arctic temperatures? but i want to credit certainly the quartet of very kind scholars in the field. i was first brought her by gabor and then thanks to harold holzer and chief frank, i have been back again and again, but thank you, jim, of course, for helping
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this needy student on her journey toward civil war history. a powerful woman was at the center of swirling political debates during a re-election campaign of the president. her influence over him, did she or did she not sway him? was a source of parlor games in that most murky of fish bowls, washington, d.c. gossip and gender create puerful sparks and reverberations and for those who think such issues don't matter, recall the presidential ambitions of ed muskie, dissolved in the melting snow versus tears debate in february 1972. a well educated woman with a track record of speaking her mind, a woman who did not mind bumping against the young, shiny palace guard at the white house. the capital remained agog anticipating her every misstep speculating on her motives with intensifying speculation as
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reporters tracked her every move. could it be 2012? or is it 1864? as i suggest in my recent biography of mrs. lincoln, a life, the storm enveloping lincoln's wife could not be matched until we had hillary clinton in the white house as the president's wife and it was mrs. lincoln who first carvinged out -- 00carved out a distinctive role for herself during her white house years. as much by necessity as by choice. several of mary lincoln's immediate family were engaged in military rebellion dedicated to the overthrow of her husband's government. she remained completely loyal to the union and went well beyond what was required having her mail incoming and outgoing read for her. lincoln's wife had perhaps the most challenging time as first lady, a term that was coined before she assumed the role, but became a label embraced by the press to designate the
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president's wife. due to mary's visibility and profile, she took advantage of this new role. as mary lincoln, the todd was only added later by descendants who actually wanted to link mary to her birth family, the todds and also to another president, and that is dolly todd madison was married to a todd, but in her own lifetime, the two-named mary lincoln felt herself at the center of a converging disaster in 1864. for three long years she had weathered the political storms. she'd endured fearful threats against her husband in 1861, suffered the loss of a child in 1862, and she nearly died herself of an injury following the sabotage of the president's carriage in june 1863 which resulted in an accident intended to have a fatal effect on the
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president rather than the very severe head trauma it caused his wife. in the year 1864 it proved a severely challenged siege for the much maligned mrs. lincoln. rather than serenely reigning, she found her parlor teeming with rivals. mary had worked hard during her husband's first presidential campaign in the summer 1860. she made a favorable impression on john scripps, editor of the tribune, who suggested that the lincolns were not the country bump kins the eastern establishment might expect especially as lincoln's wife was really educated, french speaking, an aristocratic daughter of the bluegrass. a new york herald reporter suggested lincoln's springfield
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resident resembled longfellow's abode in cambridge. another credited lincoln's wife who was an amiable and accomplished lady. these reports were meant to reassure voters along the eastern seaboard that they hadn't really had a wild westerner for a candidate. after lincoln's victory at the ballot box, he had an uphill battle when he arrived in washington, d.c. while the president-elect worked to organize his government, mary launched her own campaigns hosting family and friends greeting diplomats and statesmen, anticipating her new set of duties, and she sought to maneuver the treacherous shoals of secession. the coldness and snobbery of easterners was wearing her down. she confronted one of the most idiosyncratic of american institutions, washington society.
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at the heart of the city's bow monday, the toughened core of social arbiters were known as cave dwellers. their tenure and tenacity gave them influence over the parade of newcomers who straggled into the city at irregular but certainly every four-year intervals. the inner city of d.c. society was surrounded by the money bags whose rung on the ladder was bought, and then there were the high brows, whose station was secured by talent regardless of wealth although it was considered felicitous when the two went together. three outer rings applied steady i social pressure. jockeying for improved position, the diplomats, the army and navy crowd, and the politicos, but clearly it is the cave dwellers, particularly women like mary clemor and laura holloway who influenced the pecking order among the capital's society. fanny ems, mrs. charles, maintained an eclectic sunday salon at her 14th and 8th and street salon while her learn sister marion campbell was embedded when several -- within several knickerbocker circles.
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mrs. eames in d.c. and she would later befriend mary lincoln. the physical attributes of the district did not recommend it. noah brooks described the streets as canals of liquid mud. it would be difficult to could -- to conceive of a meaner street in architectural adornments than pennsylvania avenue, and as we just heard maybe the architect architectureal recommendations of real estate on pennsylvania avenue remain there. there were, of course, areas of the city which boasted palatial homes, the finest aide of stephen douglass near i street and jersey avenue where his wife adelle a legendary beauty, nearly 25 years his junior held court. equally sumptuous was the mansion built by senator william gwynn from california who spent $75,000 to furnish his home. gwen harbor was arrested on charges of disloyalty when the war began, was imprisoned until 1863.
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then he went off to paris and became involved in a scheme for the colonization of southerners of the state of son nora in mexico. in consequence, he was sometimes called the duke of sonora. the retiring president james buchanan supplemented his white house entertainment budget with personal funds as he needed more than his salary to keep up with demands. the buchanan white house had undergone extensive renovations and run with great efficiencies. ten servants took care of the household needs. the butler was belgian but all other servants were irish or british because buchanan believed that british-trained servants were preferable. by the way, he was an ulsterman. you can go to belfast and find the only i believe james
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buchanan memorial in the world. harriet lane, buchanan's niece who assumed the role of white house hostess, left the lincolns a very detailed list on how to manage the executive mansion. she met with mrs. lincoln in advance and arranged a meal for the newcomers on inaugural day. but she was not impressed, and she wrote cattily that lincoln resembled the irish door keeper, while mrs. lincoln is awfully western and loud and unrefined. araving into town with such rigid social snobbery, mrs. lincoln immediately placed a addressmaking order with mrs. keckley. elizabeth keckley was a prominent mixed race seamstress favored by the washington elite. it was perhaps no accident that one of her former clients was varina davis. assuming the role herself soon of first lady of the confederacy. however, mary lincoln's first battleground would be the inaugural ball. this invitational ball was held in a large tent dubbed the white
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muslin palace of aladdin where 5,000 would be on hand to rub shoulders and inspect the lincoln entourage. mrs. lincoln glided into view wearing silk bedecked with gold and diamonds and pearls while lincoln left at midnight his wife stayed on dancing into the night. she surprised the washington snobs. they commented on her exquisite toilette. the new york herald weighed in again, that's the newspaper, not our harold, she is more self-possessed than lincoln and is accommodated more readily than her taller half to the exalted station to which she has so strangely advanced from the simple social life of the little inland capital of illinois. she wore the pearls that her husband had bought her at tiffany's that night and shortly thereafter we find copies being
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made by washington jewelers for an the hoi polloi. like the proverbial cinderella after the ball she had wicked step sisters with whom she had and to contend, sometimes will to contend, sometimes literally with confederate kin. the republicans were flocking into town in droves, but they were slow to roll out the welcome wagon. elizabeth blair lee, daughter frances presson blair, suggested the women kind are give mrs. lincoln the cold shoulder and the republicans ought to rally. developments in southern states created department rifts. -- deep rifts washingtonians had weathered many crises, particularly during the 1850s, who could forget bully brooks and sumner's empty seat in the senate well. however, by april 1861, the
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atmosphere was intense and in the extreme. one society lady said, i went to early service at st. john's to avoid my many friends who do not think as i do about states' rights so church going even became a divided enterprise. lincoln's election, like andrew jackson's decades before represented a seismic social shift in the district of columbia. mainline washington elites treated the lincolns like pariahs and one observer complained both the president and his wife were mercilessly lampooned, yet mrs. lincoln was the peer of any woman in washington in education and character. mary might have likened herself to a bird in a gilded cage denied the social butterfly role that she had long aspired to that the cage was not exactly gilded.
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visitors were quite shocked by the shabby, run down condition of the president's residence. the furnishings in the red room which the lincolns claim for private callers had pieces left over from the madison era. there were only ten matching place settings in the white house china collection. springfield friends commented that the executive mansion really resembled a second rate hotel with its threadbare carpets and chopped up drapes. mary was determined to set a very high standard and prove her refinement to the washington social arbiters. her increasing isolation might have hastened her plans. london journalist william howard russell discovered that even after a month, the washington ladies had not yet made up their minds that mrs. lincoln is the fashion. they missed their southern friends and constantly draw comparisons between them and the vulgar yankee women who are now in power. mary decided she would have to make a splash to prove herself and was looking forward to the summer when she might regroup
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and redecorate, hoping once congress recessed, the crowd will be gradually leaving the city and we may hope for more leisure. but events intervened. and following the attack on ft. sumter and lincoln's call to arm, her new home became the nerve center of the divided nation. white house drawing rooms were open to soldiers who marched into the east room where, quote, under the gorgeous gas chandeliers, they disposed themselves and picturesque bivouac on the brilliant patterned velvet carpet. a remarkable vortex of events kept the lincoln white house under the microscope and within crosshairs. mary wanted to serve her husband's cause by allowing the white house to maintain business as usual. in the past, especially during the buchanan administration, the white house offered weekly dinners with 40 or more guests
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which forced lincoln's predecessor to dip into his own pocket. once mrs. lincoln saw what the cost would be to maintain the elegant style to which she aspired, she decided to revise protocol. she suggested they stop the customary state dinners. she suggested they substitute large receptions because it would be more in keeping with the institutions of our country. when she first broached the subject, her husband was skeptical, but her arguments and i'm sure her persuasive nagging won out. one of lincoln's secretaries, john nicolet, proclaimed le wren has determined to abrogate dinners and she got her way. while her husband concentrated on holding the union together, mary lincoln demonstrated that the united states remained open for business despite the rebellion. she would continue her own at homes on saturday afternoons and the newspapers announced levees will be held in the mansion every tuesday evening during the remainedder of the session of congress.
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these social occasions were obligatory and staff found them wearying. nicolet confided they are both novel and pleasant to the hundreds of mere passersby who linger a day or two to, quote, do washington, but for us who have to surf the infliction once -- suffer the infliction once a week, they get to be intolerable bores. a congressional wife complained to the president looking more and more gaunt and care worn. to relieve the tedium, mrs. lincoln introduced the program of bringing artists and performers into the executive mansion. lincoln's favorite singers actors, and others might be singled out for recognition when one of p.t. barnum's most famous acts colonel tom thumb would be extended an invitation as mrs. lincoln recognized the power of a white house request. first lady decided to throw a very large ball in february of 1862 and was in the thick of her plans by the end of january. her lavish gestures and grand manners invited criticism.
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mary decided to issue 700 invitations and planned to funnel all these guests into the east room, not only the labor required for such an event, but the worries associated with such an enterprise became immediate and acute to the lincoln secretaries who by now had nicknamed her hell cat. while the president they dubbed the tycoon. mary was firmly convinced that diversion was an absolute necessity. she ignored senator benjamin wade who wrote indignantly, are the president and mrs. lincoln aware that there is a civil war? if they are not, mr. and mrs. wade are and for that reason decline to participate in dancing and feasting. but feast they did. as heaping plates of partridge quail, duck, turkey, foie gras beef, and the president's favorite, oysters, greeted guests as well as an elegantly appointed abraham lincoln with his wife mary at his side.
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a cake in the shape of a fort as well as elegant spun sugar deserts amused the throng. the marine band played mary lincoln's polka and the washington star pronounced it the most superb affair of its kind ever seen. mary had taken nearly a year hoping to banish the memory of her predecessors reign in the white house. harriet lane had been both a popular socialite and an impeccable style setter. mary clemor, one of the dragon ladies of d.c., gave lane very high marks and remarked her superb physique gave the impression of intense, harmonious vitality. her eyes of deep violet shed a constant steady light as they could flash with rebuke, kindle with humor, or soften with tenderness.
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her classic head was crowned with masses of golden hair. mary's goal when she took over the executive mansion focused on erasing the memories of when this blond younger model made washington society dance to her tune. clemor suggested that mary had an impossible task to fulfill and further she was doomed at the outset. in reviewing the character of presidents' wives, we shall see that there was never one who entered the white house with such a feeling of self-satisfaction. to her it was the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition and mary lincoln made her journey to washington a triumphant passage. with all of mary's faults as margaret leech has argued, in her first years in the white house, mrs. lincoln received more personal publicity in the northern press than the president. and most of it was unfavorable. mary's poor relations with the
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press form a mainstay of my by graphical treatment. she and her husband were unforgiving of what they felt was an abusive fourth estate. lincoln had his battles with journalists and these contests considerably cooled white house press relations. william howard russell of "the times" recalled running into the couple while on a carriage ride and the president was not so good humored nor mrs. lincoln affable. my unpopularity is spreading because i will not bow my knee to the degraded creatures who have made the very name of a free press odious to honorable men. mrs. lincoln claimed to be immune to newspaper attacks but she was acutely aware of the power of political gossip, and the washington pecking order. she longed to rule uncontested and win over the public. her social ambitions were at best extravagant, at worst ludicrous. but she carried on her parlor campaign and fervently as a statesman wheeling in and out of her husband's office. she felt frustrated when harriet
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lane's exit created a vacuum was filled by kate chase, the devoted daughter of lincoln's republican rival. the senator from ohio was appointed secretary of the treasury, yet his daughter continued to harbor presidential ambitions for her father. she set up a rival court just ten blocks from the white house in the chase home at 6th and e. quite a good place this clara barton, mathew brady nexus. this contest began even before lincoln's assumption of office and the two women sparred dramatically throughout wartime washington. more of kate's story can be gleaned from john aller's new book, american queen, the rise and fall of kate chase sprague which tells us as much about society in 19th century america
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as it does about this woman's fascinating life. rumors in washington suggest that the chase/lincoln feud had its roots in the earliest days of the lincoln administration. the lincolns made their way slowly to washington via train in the early weeks of 1861. the couple visited at the home of governor william dennison of ohio on february 13th, the day after lincoln's 52nd birthday. the president-elect enjoyed a speech at the capitol and then they spent the evening being entertained, including a military ball. some have suggested the ohio stopover initiated this battle between the women as rumors circulated that mrs. lincoln was angered by her husband's dancing with a beguiling 20-year-old beauty that night, which, of course was impossible because she wasn't in town. and so the counter story was that mary lincoln was angry that the chases were not in attendance, but both fanciful
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tales seem manufactured, lylely likely -- likely in retrospect and for effect. chase certainly played on mary lincoln's vindictiveness in her rendition of the rivalry in later years particularly when mrs. lincoln's unpopularity peaked in the post-war years. kate chase and miry lincoln were -- mary lincoln were introduced at the first white house levee in 1861. kate was escorted by charles sumner who later became a favorite and a confidant of mrs. lincoln. this young, eligible daughter of a wealthy cabinet member enjoyed a wide circle of admirers. anne richardson french, wife of sculptor daniel chester french described kate as a professional beauty. she was tall and slim with an unusually long white neck and a slow, dibeliberate way of turning it when she glanced about. french concluded both chase's striking appearance and her distinctive manner demanded that
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when she appeared, people dropped back in order to watch her. when she returned to the white house for the lincolns' first state dinner on march 28th battle lines were clearly being drawn as the story is repeated that mrs. lincoln said to her as she left, i shall be glad to see you anytime, miss chase, and chase allegedly replied, mrs. lincoln, i shall be glad to have you call on me anytime. this might be mistaken as a polite or genteel interaction, but i think we know that both parties were giving thinly veiled signals of the rough seas ahead. mrs. lincoln knew that the gauntlet had been thrown down. her white house receptions and levees were by tradition open to the public. meanwhile, kate chase hosted exclusive breakfasts four or five times a week to lure a coterie of power brokers to keep her father's reputation in the forefront.
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mr. lincoln may have won in 1960 but kate was looking ahead to 1864. jay cook was a frequent vil for and many other wealthy financier financiers financiers. she held receptions every wednesday afternoon. afternoon gathers would drift in evening meals and entertainments to lure and lull the wheeler dealers who might advance her father's career. kate chase's charm offensive targeted several eligible bachelors as she flirted with the unattached ambassador from england, apparently leading him on a very merry chase. and she was not shy about worming her way into lincoln's inner circle attending the theater with john hey and extending him invitations to pry out of him lincoln office gossip, and he could report back all the lavish parties going on at the chases. hey stayed in the picture and was manipulated by kate after her marriage to the political wunder kind william sprague who
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was by all accounts a bounder when he clamped his eyes on kate. but as one of the richest men in america, the youngest man elected at 29 to lead a state, sprague cut a dashing figure and these were his credentials before his house was -- his horse was shot out from under him at bull run and he became a war hero. sprague was a favorite of lincoln's and lincoln surmised kate chase was a worthy challenger to his wife's title as most likely to commit mayhem to ruthlessly advance her true love's career. [laughter] trying to keep the peace in the parlor politics of washington, the president was extraordinarily kind, even solicitous of kate. this was to acknowledge her influence as chase's daughter or perhaps as sprague's future wife, but in any case, she
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remained a force with which to contend. lincoln would demonstrate his spy glass to her during washington receptions. he even invited her to meet with the delegation of american indians coming to the white house. mrs. lincoln was so irritated by these attentions that elizabeth keckley repeated in her memoir that mary forbade her husband to speak to kate at a white house reception, something to which he did not accede her wishes. as the reigning belle of d.c. society, kate indulged in her passion for finery, accepting perhaps inappropriate gifts from jay cook, including a handsome coach which set the tongues wagging. when she was romanced by william sprague, salmon p. chase at first disapproved as sprague was rumored to be a libertine with a well-known weakness for alcohol. chase did not care that sprague had more money than sense and was pleased when the courtship cooled after many months of speculation. when chase's protege james
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garfield came to washington from ohio in the autumn of 1862, he stayed with the chases and became a stimulating companion for kate. he escorted her everywhere, so much so that back in ohio lucretia crete garfield his wife wrote inquisitively you and miss , kate are taking dinners out. is miss kate a very charming interesting young lady? i may be jealous if she is. garfield's wife was right to be suspicious because whether or not he crossed the line with kate chase during this period we have evidence he was involved in an extramarital affair with a new york tribune reporter, lucia gilbert calhoun, a widow one year kate chase's junior and a decade younger than garfield. as for kate, perhaps being scire -- squired in public was meant to spark jealousy in sprague which seemed to work because thereafter they became involved and eventually engaged. sprague paid close attention to
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the extravagance his fiancee craved and overspent to satisfy her girlish gluttony. in $18,000 paris down was part of her bridal wardrobe. kate's campaign to advance her father's career never wavered but once lincoln trumped with the emancipation proclamation it was hard for kate to use the abolitionist card within washington political circles. at the same time the rivalry between chase and lincoln became notorious. one ohio paper lampooned, the lincoln/chase contest has extended into the women's department. linchas a new french rig with
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mrs. lincoln a new french rig with all the posies costing $4,000. miss kate chase sees her and goes her one better by ordering her a nice little $6,000 arrangement, including a $3,000 shawl. go to it green banks while it is yet today. who knew carriage wars were all the rage. if you read a washington paper of the era, sarah austin chanced to drive alongside a carriage which had two professional rivals. one called out the austin equipage contained a tub of guts. they were hauled before justice and they were fined $2.50 each. newspaper's might treat female rivalry sa tirically while in reality chase and lincoln worked with deadly dedication whether high brow or low brow, hi jinxes or low blows, all part of the washington merry go round. in 1864 kate chase feverishly hoped her father's talents could replace lincoln at the helm of the party. her marriage to sprague on the 12th of november, 1863, had been hailed as the social event of the season.
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the bride was replen accident in a white velvet wedding dress sporting a beautiful diamond solitaire, part of the steady stream of wedding gifts estimated to be worth anywhere between $60,000 and $100,000. the president arrived alone at the chase/sprague reception and presented the bride with a small fan as his wife refused to attend. lincoln's spent over two hours to, quote, take the cuss off the meagerness of the presidential party as he put it. mrs. sprague, however, after her marriage did not diminish her political ambitions. indeed, within a month the chase for president committee had been formed. mary lincoln was so infuriated that she crossed chase off the list for the state dinner in january 1864, although chase and his daughter were both brought back by lincoln himself. nevertheless, when the party nominated lincoln and lincoln
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refused to make a patronage appointment on chase's behalf the secretary of the treasury who regularly submitted his letter of resignation this time it was accepted and he found himself out of a job. chase's resignation and kate sprague's pained response to her father's being put out to pasture were two very bright spots during a very bleak summer for mary lincoln. she was beset by worries by her creditors having run up her debts to nearly $25,000. her husband's entire annual salary. her greatest fear was that lincoln might lose and she'd have to reveal her financial embarrassment. but she went to new york and knew it was a city ripe for patronage and corrupt bargains and she waded into the muck suggesting, quote, i will be clever to them until after the election, and then if we remain in the white house, i will drop every one of them and let them know very plainly i only made tools of them.
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they are an unprincipled set and i don't mind doing a little double dealing with them. unfortunately, she would also indulge in her shopping mania and the new york herald reported , she reason sacked the treasures of dry good stores. mary clemor complained while sher sisters scraped lint the wife of the president spent her time rolling to and fro between washington and new york. intent on extravagant purchases for herself and the white house. an election year revved up her critics, and mrs. lincoln's relationship with credit and spending contributed to her notorious downfall. ironically, kate sprague's lavish spending was just tabloid fodder and was given a pass as a millionaire's wife, but we do know that, indeed, even after mrs. lincoln avoided the embarrassment of having to reveal her debts to her husband,
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she continued throughout the rest of her white house days and her life to suffer from what my good friend and colleague steven barry has called financial bulimia. by 1864 both the chases and the lincolns were disgusted with general george mcclellan. kate and mary shared an enemy in mcclellan although they were no united front but had very different reasons. mcclellan had been the subject of intense scrutiny from the day he showed up with his wife for the white house ball in february 1862. during the festivities, the servant had accidentally lock the door to the dining room and there was a search for the key. some polliticians ghan to lampoon a speech made by mcclellan which found the union general forced into laughing at himself. over the next two years he was dubbed the american napoleon
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found criticism no laughsing matter. he wrote to his wife ellen when he received his first military promotion, i find myself at a new and strange position her president, cabinet, general scott, and all deferring to me. by some strange operation of magic, i seem to have become the power of the land. i almost think if i were to win some small success now, i could become dictator or anything else that might please me. but nothing of that kind would please me. therefore, i won't be dictator. admirable self denial, and you can read the letters as he wrote to ellen almost daily when they were apart to find out more about his fascinating inner world. the mcclellans clearly had a loving relationship but their courtship was protracted and it was stymied by ellen's lack of enthusiasm. in 1854 mcclellan fell head over heels in love with the daughter of his former army commander
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randolph marcy. her father encouraged this young soldier who had prospects and mcclellan wrote to ellen's mother he was determined to win her if i can. however, ellen was in love with another army officer, lieutenant ambrose powell hill. because hill had no financial prospects outside the military ellen's father threatened if she did not break off with him, i fear my ardent affections will turn to hate. ellen did eventually abandon hill who would later as we know serve the rebel cause and often faced mcclellan on the battlefield. general a.p. hill would die in battle shortly before appomattox but ellen's break with hill did not advance the courtship with mcclellan as we find mcclellan nearly a decade older and a few inches shorter was actually one of nine suitors ellen turned down during the 1850s. george left the army and worked his way up as head of the ohio
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and mississippi railroad. and when the mcclellans were on a visit to chicago and she was 25, mcclellan asked ellen for her hand and was accepted. they were married in may 1860 and by all accounts remained devoted. however, ellen's temperament did not include the need to advertise and promote her husband's talents. she knew he was quite a self promoter on his own achieving the rank of major general by the age of 34, consolidating power by becoming the first commander of the army of the potomac in july 1861. when winfield scott retired in november 1861, mcclenen insisted to lincoln i can do it all. within months it became clear that he could not, and his contempt for lincoln became exaggerated as in private he berated his commander in chief as nothing more than a well-meaning baboon. which very much reminds us of how political campaigns in the 19th century are perhaps not so
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different from the 21st. open mic time. by july of 1862, salmon chase and his daughter were campaigning actively to have mcclellan removed, yet lincoln offered the general yet another chance to prove himself. antietam became mcclellan's final downfall despite his protestations to the opposite. while the rivers ran red with blood and lincoln grew darker each day at the failure to pursue and crush the enemy. lincoln took the opportunity to claim victory. the purpose of his claim was to revolutionize the war by releasing the preliminary emancipation proclamation. mcclellan claimed military success to continue his climb up the ladder. ellen may have believed her husband's claim, i have fought the battle splendidly. one of these days history will i trust do me justice. yet, lincoln replaced mcclellan
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with burnside. mcclellan's version of the facts notwithstanding, he deflected blame and vaingloriously accepted the nomination of the democratic party and held onto his military commission until election day november 8th. following his decisive defeat, mcclellan wrote to lincoln as he sailed off to europe, it would have been gratifying to me to have retired from the service with the knowledge that i still retained the approbation of your excellency. mcclellan failed to carry even a majority of the soldiers' vote and forfeited the confidence and kind feeling of his former commander in chief. even if lincoln had hoped to maintain charity toward all, the parlor politics of washington would not allow mcclellan's rehabilitation. ellen marcie mcclellan did not exactly retreat from the field. she never even took up arms. she was outperformed, outplayed by old hands at the washington party politics game.
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mary lincoln's sad fate will doubtless be a part of the lincoln forum's commemorations next year as her widowhood in 1865 was as defining of her life as her marriage in 1842. but what about her younger blonder rivals? hairrriet lane had heeded her uncle's advice to not rush were -- precipitously into matrimonial connections and only married at the age of 36 in 1866. her union was a happy one although she lost her uncle, her husband, and both of her children, two sons, before she reached the age of 60. she died in her early 70s donating her considerable art collection to the smithsonian and endowing a home for children at the johns hopkins hospital where the harriet lane pediatric facilities continue to serve the clinical needs of children today. according to her white house biography.
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poor kate chase sprague never got a white house biography as mary lincoln and harriet lane did, even though she spent most of her adulthood discouraging her father from any remarriage and encouraging him to run for president. kate and her sister nette were two of the seven women and the many hundred men who attended lincoln's white house funeral while mary lincoln pleaded she was too ill to attend. later that year kate gave birth to her first child, a son, and she and sprague had three additional children, three daughters over the next ten years. she revived her father's hopes for the presidency as he campaigned from the bench of the supreme court, an appointment lincoln had graciously granted him in december of 1864. the chases switched parties with kate working the democratic convention of 1872 trying to secure her father's candidacy, another failed campaign. things went downhill for kate when her father died in may
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1873. four months later the sprague fortune was wiped out by black friday. after years of living apart with kate enduring williams philandering and alcoholism she sued her husband for divorce. it was supremely difficult as kate's own infidelity, her involvement with new york senator roscoe conklin had become public knowledge which weakened her custody bid and any hopes for alimony. after months of wrangling, the marriage was dissolved in 1882. sprague kept custody of his 16-year-old son but relinquished the three daughters to his ex-wife. she would return to the use of her maiden name, kate chase. she settled in the washington suburban home her father left her caring for her three daughters, particularly her second daughter, kitty, who was mentally challenged.
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in 1890 her 25-year-old son took , his own life, which plunged kate chase, impoverished reclusive into further isolation. she buried her son next to her father and lived out a relatively meager existence until her death at 59 in 1899. rather than being labeled a woman ruled by passion, she might be regarded as a woman supremely committed to politics. her tragic life was like her greatrival, mary lincoln, diffuse by personal loss. like the first lady who she wanted to dethrone, she was a worthy opponent. women did not win elections no matter how hard they worked. instead, they were crowned, and indeed, shackled by convention, rather than be able to take their place. chase challenge the world order and tried to be a part of her father's political strategy. perhaps, even marrying like a
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royal princess to advance his future. the female domain remained as competitive space in washington in 1884. and one that,, just like today, is ruled by social media. just like general petreaus, and bipartisan elections have never been taught. you can never underestimate what will happen when gossip, sex, and media mix in washington. [applause] >> if there are any questions, we have about 10 minutes or so
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until the next session. >> i would love it if you would identify yourself. >> i am norm. from akron, ohio. but originally from lincoln, illinois. i asked this question of jean baker when she was here last. i will ask the same question to you. i will not give you her response until you answer the question. >> you can ask the question, i can give the answer. >> do you think mary was bipolar? >> i have often said, and i will repeat, i am a doctorate in history and not medicine. i would suggest that even if we brought mary out on stage today, and she were examined, they would have very divided views.
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i do not diagnose. i tried to lay out patterns of behavior. i very much respect my colleagues. jean baker has written about the narcissism of mary. we have some new work coming out about concussions and white head trauma can do. i very much welcome that speculation. i, myself, tried to contextualize. i believe that ironically i was most moved to believe that she was not bipolar, but had medication problems and psychological problems. especially when i read the wonderful letters that jason anderson dug up when she was incarcerated. during a difficult period following the 10th anniversary of her husband's death.
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>> absolutely not. >> would you like to ask a question? >> don't forget us over here. >> i'm sorry. we will take this and then come back to you. >> my name is jim mcgrath. i am from new york. >> quite a bit of gossip around grover cleveland. >> anyway, my question is __ mary lincoln did not like graham too much. she liked his wife less, julia. my question is __ she called him a butcher after cold harbor. in the 1870's, grant became presidents and secured some
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kind of pension for mary lincoln when she was financially struggling. >> you think grant was the one to secure the pension? >> that is what i found. >> check my last chapter. i believe it was a long campaign on her part. i would say they were congressional people pushing it more so than grant. it may have been granted during grants., but he is not someone i will line up and say was advancing the cause to dramatically. >> that is what i heard. >> did marry ever think grant for advancing her political fortunes? no. actually, they had an interesting incident when she was living abroad. it is a very small town.
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bay __ berry springfield_like, in the south of france. interestingly, the grants were visiting there when she was in residence. i came across an exchange. it was very sincere saying, we are so sorry, we do not know the you are here, and now our schedule does not allow us to visit you. as an ex_president, his popularity was something that deeply disturbed mary. her campaign from the moment that she recovered from the immediate effects of his death __ i think she never recovered in a long_term __ was to campaign for her husband, very strategically. he was the writer of the emancipation proclamation. she gave a cane to frederick
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douglass. she gave artifacts to african_americans. she very much champion her husband as someone who would sacrifice very much for his cause. she and grant, and juliet, no, they were never going to become __ bosom buddies. >> where would you rank her on the list of great american first lady's? would she be in your top five? >> what about his question? >> i don't care. >> you __ now is his turn. >> after the experience that mary lincoln had of her children's death in the white house. >> one died in the white house. >> what about her social rivals?
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were they able to ease the sting of what was going on in their relationships. >> after her child's death? in my biography, i had written about this __ when i got to the 61, 62. of her life, i tried to write chronologically. i was struck by how her critics were. presses were trying to send spies into the white house to find out what was going on. she was constantly under attack __ everywhere she went to is followed by reporters. doris goodwin put me on the notion that if you want to put fire on the house, you have to ignite the thatch. mary was the thatch.
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i think the death of her son led her to look inward. the notion of social rivals is not something i found. by 64, she was brought up again. through out the period, she was losing control over herself over this question. she was quite angry that no one recognized the one_year anniversary of the death of her son, willie. except for neptune __ i'mm blanking. i do find that some people come in. there are many people who rose to the occasion and said they wanted to publish good works about her.
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she was going to hospitals. they wanted to start a press campaign. she said that she refused. she was a very victorian woman in some ways, and did not want her name appearing in the paper. of course, that is why the old close scandal, after she left the white house for __ after such a painful episode. >> i am a medical doctor. i'm an infectious disease specialist, not a psychologist. i always thought she was bipolar. you may know this __ the reason that ap hill and marcy broke up was because ap hill had gonorrhea. he had contracted it in west point with mcclellan.
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he knew that he had gonorrhea, and he formed the family of ap health. >> thank you for that. i just do not do military history, but i am pleased to be filled in. >> good morning, i am from chicago. in the last year, published in the journal of the abraham lincoln association, there has been great speculation on mary lincoln purchasing penny royal when she was pregnant with tad. penny royal is used to read.the fleas or to induce an abortion. >> i'm sorry, i cannot comment on the scholarship.
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my recent books have meant that i do not have the drugs they __ that mary lincoln had. from my estimation from that period, i would have no evidence from her letters or otherwise that there would be any way that i could comment or believe that she was trying to not have the child. the lincolns were very proud and devoted. when she suffered family tragedies in the death of eddie, she became pregnant within one month. indeed, the idea of having two younger sons and robert already off to school was something that was in their minds. i look forward to it.
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>> congratulations. >> thank you. we will applaud for raising these controversial questions and keeping it up. she definitely had syphilis __ that was one of the ones that medically people speculate, but it was interesting. >> from washington, d.c., originally from ohio. you hinted at this a moment ago. what about mary lincoln's work with the soldiers. she had great empathy for the mothers and wives, having had the loss of these children. it is my understanding that she spent a lot of time in the hospital's writing letters home for the soldiers. it seems to me that all of these vicious attacks against
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her could have been blunted had she allowed the reporters to talk __ to write about that. why did she not want that? was it kept kind of a secret? did people not understand? >> i do not think that she advertised on purpose. i think she was someone who went into penitents when her son died. one of the things was __ i told you about her grand aspirations for d.c. droning harriet lane. that was around the time that her son's illness became evident. she and the president kept checking in the bedroom and __ if you go to the lincoln library, there is a great exhibit about how they kept going in the room during the ball. within days, her beloved willie was dead.
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if you contrast her next trip to new york with 64, you find that she was trying to find her way back to being the social creature that she was. also, writing letters and taking care of the bond between families in the wartime dislocation was something that she very much did dedicate itself to. she took flowers from the white house. she took fruit. she was serving the role which she thought was a political role. lincoln did it as well. they did not go in as a couple, they went separately. when someone did mention it, she wrote to them saying, please don't. we do know that she was trying to keep that side of her charity __ she wanted to be an anonymous donor to the soldiers cause during that period.
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that's what i think was her interest at the time. >> hi, mary beth donnelly. >> this is the last question, so make it a good one. >> it is kind of broad, but i'm thinking of the conversation we had last night of lincoln on film. i just wanted to know that what you think of the portrayal of mary lincoln on film. >> i do have weaknesses. i think that __ i have very strong feelings about and rutledge on film. nevertheless, i think that mary on film is an interesting phenomenon. i do believe that you can see in the portrait was sam watters, mary tyler moore trying to show a woman with clear disturbances __ i thought that was powerful.
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i do feel that this recent portrait by sally fields, which i very much regret, did not earn her her third oscar, was an amazing inhabiting of that role. i think people can have differences of opinion as to her problems are flaws. i think that particular portrait captured her as a flawed, dynamic, intense character. she contributed to that in a way that i found amazing. i'm very regretful that i cannot name the actual spec played mary lincoln in lincoln the vampire slayer, however, you have to understand that any scholar who has written a biography about harriet tubman and mary lincoln finding these two characters taking guns to
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gettysburg will very much while come this pop_culture representation. thank you very much [applause] >> with light coverage of the senate and house, here on c_span 3, we complement that coverage. on weekends, c_span 3 is home to "american history tv" with programs that tell our nation's history. american artifacts, 20 museums and u. s. sites. history bookshelf with the best_known american history writers. lectures in history with top college professors delving into our nation's past.
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our newest series, reel america with archival footage. c_span 3, created by the cable industry and funded by your local providers. >> each week, "american history tv"'s reel america brings archival films the health of the story of the 20th century. ♪ >>in a gathering of 10,000 before the memorial of the great emancipator, president truman strongly advocates freedom and equality for all u. s. citizens. >> recent events have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before to ensure that all
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americans enjoy these rights. [applause] when i say all americans, i mean all americans. [applause] our immediate past is to remove the remnants of the barriers which stand between millions of our citizens and their birthright. there is no justifiable reason for discrimination because of ancestry or religion, or race, or color. [applause] ♪ >> next, anderson university prof. brian dirck look for abraham

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